Door open for respite at 24-hour ac­tiv­ity hub

Accrington Observer - - LOOKING BACK -

JON MACPHER­SON

A24-HOUR respite and ac­tiv­ity cen­tre for chil­dren and young adults with dis­abil­i­ties has opened.

The £1 mil­lion state-ofthe-art fa­cil­ity at the pre­vi­ously un­oc­cu­pied Ma­sonic Hall in Oswaldtwistle has cre­ated around 30 jobs and caters for chil­dren and young adults up to the age of 25 with dis­abil­i­ties.

Plan­ning ap­proval for the ‘Big Blue Door’ cen­tre, which has moved from its pre­vi­ous base in Black­burn af­ter 14 years, was granted back in 2012.

Owner An­drea Brig­house said it has ‘taken a long time’ for all the work and ap­provals to be com­pleted and they are ‘de­lighted’ to have now opened the fa­cil­ity.

She said: “We are very ex­cited about the move. It is a big­ger premises with bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties and is some­thing we have been af­ter for a while.

“We have com­pletely gut­ted the build­ing and have a hy­drother­apy pool, play area and ac­tiv­ity room.

“Although we were based be­fore in Black­burn, 99 per cent of our clients come from all over Lan­cashire like South­port, Pre­ston and Rawten­stall.

“It is prob­a­bly a bit more ac­ces­si­ble here in Oswaldtwistle with the mo­tor­way nearby.”

The build­ing on Al­bert Street has been empty since mem­bers of Church and Oswaldtwistle Freema­sons opted to leave in 2011 af­ter more than a cen­tury be­cause of high run­ning costs.

An­drea, 45, said they cur­rently have around 100 clients and the cen­tre in­cludes eight beds for overnight stay.

She said: “We looked af­ter all kids with dis­abil­i­ties but we spe­cialise in autism.

“We have a good rep­u­ta­tion and are one of Lan­cashire County Coun­cil’s pre­ferred providers and are Of­sted ap­proved.

“When I was 17 I wanted to be a fash­ion de­signer but then I had my baby Lora who was born with autism and I got into this job as a means to an end.

“I would never have got­ten into this if it wasn’t for her and I found out that I re­ally liked it and was re­ally good at it.

“I worked in so­cial ser­vices for a long time and I just thought there was a bet­ter way out there and we needed a flex­i­ble ser­vice so I set it up my­self.”

An­drea said lo­cal res­i­dents have been very sup­port­ive.

She said: “When I first bought the build­ing I went to see all the neigh­bours and ex­plained what we were do­ing and didn’t want them to worry.

“They have all been lovely with us.”

An­drea Brig­house has launched the cen­tre in Oswaldtwistle

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